Virus-antibody immune complex formation, deposition, and disease is a common manifestation in most mice persistently infected with lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV). Although mice of several strains persistently infected with LCMV mount continuous anti-LCMV immune responses to the three virion structural polypeptides, the amount of antibody(s) made varies among strains. The formation of antibody to LCMV correlates with the detection of C1q binding materials (immune complexes) in the circulation; however, there is no correlation between the total amount of IgG and the C1q binding material. SWR/J mice (H2qq) are high responders (high levels of anti-LCMV antibodies, high C1q binding responses), whereas BALB/W mice (H-2dd) are low responders (low levels of anti-LCMV antibodies, low C1q binding responses). Sera from 37 SWR/J mice, 12 wk of age, bound 55.1% of offered 125I C1q compared to 8.4% for 37 age and sex-matched BALB/W mice. SWR/J mice made approximately 60-fold more antibody to LCMV than did BALB/W mice. To define the genetic factors involved, we used the C1q binding assay, high responder and low responder mice, their hybrid offspring, backcrosses of the hybrids to both high and low responder parents, and selected recombinant inbred mouse strains. From studies with BALB/W mice persistently infected with LCMV, we defined low C1q responder mice as those having binding activity of 18.4% or less (BALB/W mean C1q binding value + 2 SD). By using this criteria for 12-wk-old mice, 55/57 (96%) of SWR/J, 27/37 (73%) of F1(SxB or BxS), 13/21 (62%) of qq or 11/20 (55%) qd from F1 x SWR/J, and 6/13 (45%) qd from F1 x BALB/W were high C1q responders. In contrast, none of the 17 dd mice from the F1 x BALB/W cross were high responders. Thus, F1 hybrid mice are high responders (dominant) and data from backcrossing F1 hybrids to either high or low responder parents suggested the complexes associated with C1q binding was controlled by gene(s) in the H-2 complex. Support for the role of Ir gene(s) was provided by experiments showing LCMV persistently infected BALB/kae (H-2 KkIkDk) and recombinant inbred strains B10.A (KkIkDd) and A.TL (KsIkDd) were high C1q responders, whereas B10.A(5R) (KbIbDd) and BALB/cby (KdIdDd) were not. The wide scatter in C1q binding levels observed among C1q high responder mice and the production of C1q binding levels in F1 mice that are intermediate between high and low responder strains suggested that, in addition to H-2-linked genes, other non-H-2-linked genes also play a role in this response. The amount of C1q binding complexes in LCMV persistently infected mouse strains and their crosses was unrelated to the amounts of infectious virus carried in their sera. Despite the low C1q binding by sera of H-2dd mice that originated from mating F1 hybrid (qd) x BALB/WEHI (dd), these mice carried equivalent amounts of infectious virus as their qd littermates or qd and qq mice originated from F1 x SWR/J mice.